Top Ten Tuesday: Clichéd book covers

Top Ten Tuesday“Top Ten Tuesday” is a feature started by “The Broke and the Bookish“, in which people list their top ten books that match some given criterion. It changes every week, and happens on a Tuesday. Lots (a frankly ridiculous number) of bloggers take part. This week’s topic is “anything to do with covers”.

I find, when browsing bookshelves, that some covers seem to come up again and again. Publishers find something that kind of works, and then just slap it on as many books as they can. It can get a little wearying to come across book after book which only differs in colour-scheme and the exact placement of a cookie-cutter protagonist.

I’ve picked ten types of covers that I’m growing a little bored of; each one comes up rather too frequently. I’m not, I should stress, objecting to the covers themselves, or to the books they front. I’ve read and enjoyed books from each of the categories below, and I picked these books for their covers alone, rather than any literary merit.

The list is in no particular order.

1. Topless menaa7

I don’t see these so much in physical bookshops, but they’re
all over my Amazon recommendations. The covers are dominated by a muscled Adonis, who has possible been recently oiled. Other than the title, that’s all you get – if you want to know anything else about the book than whether or not it contains both men and a lack of shirts, you have to actually read it.



aa32. That one acacia tree

Books about Africa or by African authors tend to get unfairly pigeonholed. One of the most obvious ways this happens is through book covers. Red sunsets and the silhouette of an acacia tree – that’s what “African” means, right? In fact, it’s probably all the same tree, taken from different angles on different days (always at sunset though. Obviously). Here’s a compilation.



aa123. A leather-clad woman next to magic

This cover is all-too-frequent in urban fantasy. She’s a woman with a knowing expression and form-fitting clothing. The magic is misty and glow-y. She’ll probably have a tempestuous romance with a werewolf, and a take-no-prisoners attitude. The specifics of powers change, exactly what the threat is might shift, but the main ideas are the same.



aa54. A grizzled man with a dark side

This one is even more common in video games. The cover is a man – probably stubbled – standing against a dark background, with a weapon. He plays by no rules but his own. He has a gravelly voice and a higher calling. He walks in shadows, because sometimes that’s what a man has to do. He probably has a code, and issues with women, and sleeps with one eye open.



aa65. A Regency couple in an inappropriate embrace

This is something of a variation on my first entry. The man tends to be topless. The woman is either in the process of removing a complex dress, or in a very scanty (for the time) outfit. No matter what she’s wearing, her eyes are heavy-lidded with pleasure, and she’s pressed against his chest.



6. A child’s diaryaa1

I think this cover is chosen in a bid to suggest authenticity – this book’s not a boring normal book, but a diary! A super-secret insight into the thoughts of someone just like you! Look, it even has stickers. It doesn’t work though, because almost everyone trying for the next breakaway school story has had the same idea. Attempting to fake sincerity doesn’t bug me much; doing so clumsily does.



7. A weaponaa4

This cover is just a weapon. Sometimes, it’s two weapons, just to switch things up. This book isn’t your average fantasy.  It’s not some happy, simplistic tale for kids. It’s hardcore, gritty, realistic. No one will swoop in to save the day – there will be blood and anguish and violence.




aa118. A detective’s silhouette

I see these covers all the time, these days. Seems like every two-bit scribbler wants to snatch a little bit of Noir magic to slap on their detective story. Some trenchcoated gumshoe – sometimes a dame with legs all the way up to heaven – stands (probably in profile). Shadows obscure most of the details. Maybe there’s a streetlamp, maybe there’s just the flare of a hurried cigarette. Increasingly, there’s a gun.


aa99. Bright colours and loopy handwriting

This book is fun! Take it to the beach, gab about it with your gal-pals. Don’t be fooled though; this isn’t just some fun, flighty romance. It’s also about life, and growing up, and sisterhood. Although can you focus on all those things at once, when darkly handsome Mike just moved in next door?



aa1010. The author’s name in massive gold letters

Legal and political thrillers follow this pattern more than anything else, but you find it anywhere. Any book where the author has decided that they are more important than the story gets these huge serifed letters. Sometimes it makes sense – if you’re as big as Stephen King, people look for your books because they already know what’s inside. However, it does take up valuable space on the cover – you rarely get more than an ominous building in the background to give hints as to genre or plot.

The parent post on The Broke and the Bookish is here.

7 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Clichéd book covers

    1. I think you’re right. When I started buying girl-with-magic books, I started to get a lot of recommendations for topless-man (who may or may not be a werewolf) ones.


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